Is life working out brilliantly in all areas for you? Yes? Great! You don’t need to read this post in that case. But otherwise, please read on…
It’s a curse to think we know it all (or even that we fully understand anything). If we go through life that way — saying “oh yes, yes, seen it, read it, know all about it, got my masters degree in that, am absolutely sure there’s no other explanation for that” — we miss out on the joy of discovery, the bliss of creativity, the magnificence of ‘expansion’ and the peace of humility.
“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities”
Endless possibilities… or only one option?
In the “beginner’s mind”, as Suzuki puts it, there are indeed many possibilities — endless imagination and possibilities in fact. And with that, comes the possibility of newer and better solutions and experiences. By contrast, in the “expert’s mind” there are often only finite definitions and singular possibilities for the issues at hand.
This is, as I see it, one of the key problems with the traditional medical system (no offence to GPs out there!) — that some of the approaches simple aren’t working (in fact, sometimes they’re killing people — accidentally of course!). However, due to the limitations of over a hundred years following one path of thought (e.g. “how do we treat the symptoms we’re seeing?”), that’s what happens. And it’s not just the medical system that is treating the symptoms rather than opening their mind to other root-cause solutions and a more holistic “beginner’s mind” approach — it happens in almost every industry.
Take marketing for example… Often people are becoming experts at the sales and marketing process, but their businesses are still failing — simply because their product SUCKS (as an example). The symptoms are that they’re not making great sales, so the “logical” (expert) approach is to keep “tweaking” the sales process. However, the beginner’s mind considers everything, including the root-cause (product sucks). The beginner’s mind is open to lateral thinking and new solutions, whereas, the expert mind is fixed on something like: “sales are low because our sales process needs improving — sales will improve when we hit the market with the right sales approach”.
And then, in 5 or 10 years, after spending an immense amount of money and energy on that “expert” path, you wonder why either your health or your business hasn’t soared into the great heights of wellbeing and prosperity you expected (and were so damn convinced about all along). All you’re left with is misery… The misery of knowing that [a] you may have wasted your time, money and energy, and [b] knowing that you’ll just have to keep trying and hoping for something better (knowing, from experience, that it probably won’t get any better). Misery, misery, misery.
And the “expert mind” isn’t limited to your job either, it’s evident in many parts of our life, such as our religions. Now, before I continue, I just need to give my standard “disclaimer” that if you’re involved in some sort of religious group or organisation and you’re totally happy there, then that’s awesome and you don’t need to consider this…. BUT… the issue I see is that people in many religions shut out guidance in any other form except that which is acceptable to their own religion.
When I was going to a christian church, I would never have considered paying attention to something written/spoken by the Dalai Lama, and yet, in the end, it was his words (in the book “The Art of Happiness”) that made a massive difference to my life and my level of happiness. I don’t know why I couldn’t find happiness in the church, but I just didn’t. So it was the process of allowing the beginner’s mind to form — “I need to consider all avenues to happiness, not just those acceptable to my church” — that eventually opened my mind to something that worked for me. (I go into this in detail in my book, so enough about it for now!).
It’s a hard choice
It’s a hard choice because we WANT to know for sure. It can be very uncomfortable to open yourself to new possibilities when so many of us have “agreed” on a certain construct of the world and how it works. Some of us have said “yes, that’s how it is” and the rest of us have blindly accepted it as being a solid reality.
But nothing is solid reality. Life is in flux. Growth is always in motion.
Do you think technology and science would ever advance if yesterday’s experts were in charge? No, it would just strengthen a certain way of life that may not suit us anymore. We’re evolving. Life is evolving. Our understanding of everything is expanding… so we can’t assume that what worked for us yesterday will work for us tomorrow.
So moving on by taking on the beginner’s mind is the only real way forward as far as I’m concerned. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t become an expert at anything!! No, no, no! But what I AM saying is that, whilst becoming an expert in your chosen field or faith, you should also consider as many other related ideas as you can, and (most importantly) open your mind to completely NEW ideas to flow into your awareness (without judging them, or questioning where they came from, or wondering if your peers will agree or accept them). Then share those new ideas with as many people as you can so we can ALL evolve a little more.
Hmm… sounds a little weird perhaps? I agree, but it works. Try it for yourself (yes, I dare you!).